Three neighborhood groups released a joint statement Tuesday opposing the city’s $119 million racetrack renovation at the Fairgrounds Nashville. The groups — South Nashville Action People (SNAP), 12South Neighborhood Association and Chestnut Hill Neighborhood Association — claim more than 10,000 constituents across three neighborhoods surrounding the fairgrounds. These groups have remained silent on a new track renovation since fair commissioners first heard details of the proposal in November.
In the proposed deal, Nashville would redevelop the current racetrack before handing over operating power to Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI), a national track operator aiming to bring NASCAR races to the fairgrounds. In the absence of a fixed event schedule, noise controls, public transportation and financial guarantees from the track operator, neighbors are worried that the proposal is an irresponsible use of city funds and would adversely affect quality of life in the area.
“Everyone wants sidewalks,” Terry Vo, president of the Chestnut Hill Neighborhood Association, tells the Scene. “We have to talk about the things that are not sexy, right? Where are all these cars going to be parked? We keep building these really awesome things, but we’re not addressing the actual foundations required to keep them successful and functional."
“Building a speedway for NASCAR events next to these other items is baffling to me,” adds Shay Sapp, SNAP president. “It’s a priorities issue. Our community has a different vision.”
Sapp and Vo, along with Stephanie Levinson of the 12South Neighborhood Association, got together in November, hoping to respond to Mayor John Cooper’s proposed deal with a united front. The three groups make up a large swath of one of the city’s fastest-growing corridors.
Much of the groups’ statement focuses on the financial foundations of the deal, which would issue city debt backed by revenue from events and venue rent. They say it’s a big gamble for the city.
The mayor’s office, which negotiated the proposal with SMI, defends its projections, which were developed according to analysis by independent consultants hired by the city.
In a statement to the Scene, the mayor's office emphasizes that the terms of the deal are still being vetted and that the proposal responds to considerations for sound, parking and scheduling.
“Feedback and input from all residents is essential to present the best possible deal for taxpayers, and we expect a number of the concerns outlined in the letter to be addressed as part of the final deal terms," reads the statement. "The proposed agreement shifts facility improvement and ongoing maintenance costs from Metro to Bristol, while not increasing racing at the Fairgrounds, reducing practice time, and installing state-of-the-art sound mitigation technology for quieter racing. We look forward to these discussions continuing."